After time foolishly squandered arguing with people who unflaggingly and contentedly defend sexist epithets and insist that they are entirely different from racist epithets and repeat with immovable obstinacy that of course they would not call a black person a stupid nigger but calling a woman a stupid bitch is just fine – after that it is refreshing to read less stupid more clear-sighted remarks. Remarks that are two years old, to be sure, but one gets one’s refreshment where one can.
…in the last week, I had a really retro and disheartening conversation about sexist language—a really retro and disheartening conversation about sexist language that I’ve had dozens of times before.
You and me both.
It began in the comments section of another blog, when I objected to a contributor denouncing a male public figure he didn’t like as an “all-around cunt.” Naturally, I was mocked for pointing out that demeaning and marginalizing sexist language has the capacity to make women feel demeaned and marginalized.
Check, check, check.
I emailed another contributor whom I know better to inquire if using the n-word as an insult is considered appropriate at the blog, and if it would have been acceptable for the public figure to be deemed an “all-around faggot.” I was told that anything was allowable “within reasonable limits.” Racial slurs would not be tolerated or defended, but the use of sexist language was acceptable. Which, by my calculations, means that if you’re lambasting a black male public figure, calling him a stupid n—-r is out of bounds, but calling him a stupid cunt is totally cool.
Siiiiigh. Exactly. A Steve at Daylight Atheism said the same thing (swapping ‘cunt’ for ‘bitch’) over and over and over again. This makes me want to bang my head against the wall – and I can’t seem to tear myself away.
“nigger” has obvious racist intent behind it in the context you describe. “bitch” on the other hand does not carry the sexist message in the way “nigger” carries the racist one.
See? Predictable as a clock – but much more infuriating. ‘Yes I do too so get to call you a stupid bitch, you stupid bitch!’
Back to refreshing Feminism 101:
There are ways to use words and there are ways to use words—and knowing the difference, rooting out the subversive context from that which simply perpetuates oppression, is not remotely difficult. And no matter how often women use it in a reclamative fashion, it doesn’t give anyone (of either sex) permission to use it as an insult.
Ah, that’s better. Like a nice tall glass of ginger ale on a hot afternoon.
(I hope this post doesn’t summon ‘wice’ from the vasty deep. Go talk to that Steve, wice; you’ll get along beautifully.